First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

We write for you

It’s a public service and we refuse to erect a paywall and force you to pay for truth. Instead, we ask (nicely and often) that those of you who can afford to, become a Maverick Insider and help with whatever you can. In order for truth not to become a thing of the past, we need to keep going.

Currently, 18,000 (or less than 0.3%) of our brave and generous readers are members; which says a lot about their characters and commitment to our country. These people are paying for a free service in order to keep it free for everyone.

They are the true South AfriCANs.(Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves.)

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Huge backlog at sexual offences court due to broken rec...

South Africa


Massive case backlog at Parow Sexual Offences Court due to repeatedly broken recording machines

The recording equipment at the Parow Sexual Offences Court was broken for most of the last nine months, resulting in a backlog of cases. (Photo: Liezl Human)

No accountability evident from courts or Minister of Justice’s office.

The Parow Sexual Offences Court has racked up a backlog of almost 200 outstanding cases since September last year due to constantly broken recording equipment. This court tries people for sexual offence crimes including rape and sexual assault.

The equipment initially broke in September 2021 and wasn’t fixed for months. It was fixed and working again for a while in March but broke soon after. It has now been fixed again, according to a source at the court.

Court recording equipment is used for the recording and transcription of all court proceedings. Court proceedings can’t continue without this machinery in working order and this means that for nearly six months no sexual offence trials went ahead or were finalised, causing the huge backlog. 

All cases that were supposed to be heard in the court had to be postponed.

In March, activists protested outside the court about the delays caused by the broken machinery. According to Reverend June Dolley-Major, who handed over the activists’ memo to the court, a few days after the protest the equipment was fixed and court proceedings could continue.

But according to a source at the court, the recording equipment broke again soon after. The source confirmed that the machinery is now working again but that the backlog is massive and “out of control”. The backlog was normally just over 50 cases when the machines were working.

Sexual offences courts were re-established by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ) in 2013 after the report of the Ministerial Advisory Task Team on the Adjudication of Sexual Offence Matters (Mattso Report) was released. The report notes that the purpose of re-establishing these courts would be to deliver special services (in terms of personnel skills and infrastructure) to victims who are “particularly vulnerable and marginalised” including women, children, older people, LGBTI people and people with disabilities.

According to Justice Minister Ronald Lamola in December, only 19% of sexual offences cases were moving through the system. The rest — 15,605 cases or 81% — were backlogged. This was a massive increase from the 52% backlog in March 2021.

When asked for comment, the spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Justice referred GroundUp to the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice did not respond to us at all.

We also emailed several people in the Regional Court in Bellville, requesting comment. None responded. DM

First published by GroundUp.



Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

No Comments, yet

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted